The first U.S. Navy ship named Nassau was named for the sound off the coast of Florida; the second Nassau (LHA-4) commemorated the Continental Navy/Marine Corps landing at New Providence, near Nassau, Bahama Islands, on 3 March 1776.
(CVE-16: displacement 9,800; length 495'8"; beam 111'6"; draft 26'; speed 18 knots; complement 890; armament 2 5-inch, 20 40 millimeter, 21 aircraft; class Bogue; type C3-S-A1)
The first Nassau (ACV-16) was laid down on 27 November 1941 under a Maritime Commission contract (MC Hull No. 234) at Tacoma, Wash., by the Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corp.;launched on 4 April 1942; sponsored by Mrs. G. H. Hasselman of Tongue Point, Ore.; acquired by the Navy on 1 May; towed to the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Bremerton, Wash., and was there converted to an aircraft auxiliary vessel (ACV); and commissioned on 20 August 1942, Capt. Austin K. Doyle in command.
On the 10th of October 1942 Nassau arrived at the Naval Air Station (NAS), Alameda, Calif., loaded aircraft, and four days later steamed for Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, thence to Palmyra Island, arriving on 30 October. For the next four months, she operated between Palmyra and Noumea, New Caledonia and Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides.
Nassau returned to Pearl Harbor on 14 February 1943, embarked personnel and aircraft, and sailed the 21st on a ferry mission to Espiritu Santo. She returned to Pearl Harbor in mid-March and then continued on to Alameda, California. In April she moved to San Diego and conducted flight training operations, after which she rendezvoused with Task Group (TG) 51.1 and steamed for Cold Bay, Alaska, with Composite Squadron (VC) 21 embarked.
Nassau got underway on a search mission 4 May 1943 and conducted flight operations with Task Force (TF) 51, providing air cover for the occupation of Attu Island from 11 through 20 May. She returned to San Diego in late May, arrived at Alameda on 8 June and onloaded 45 aircraft destined for Brisbane, Australia. She delivered the aircraft on 2 July and returned to San Diego via Noumea, New Caledonia. On 15 July 1943, Nassau was reclassified from an auxiliary aircraft carrier to an escort aircraft carrier (CVE).
In August 1943, she trained off San Diego before ferrying planes to Samoa. Returning to San Diego from Samoa, 19 October, Nassau embarked Marine Fighting Squadron (VMF) 225 for passage to Pearl Harbor.Arriving on the 30th, she conducted air operations off Pearl Harbor during the early days of November, and on the 7th she embarked VF-l and steamed for the Gilbert Islands for operations with Task Force 52.
Nassau's mission was to transport VF-1 to Tarawa and to send it ashore as soon as facilities were available. The invasion of Tarawa commenced on 20 November but encountered bitter resistance. As a result, VF-1 was assigned combat air patrol and flew bombing and strafing runs from the carrier in support of the assault troops. The squadron flew a total of 106 missions and spent 237 hours of flying time in four days of operations without losing a single plane or pilot.
Nassau returned to Pearl Harbor on 5 December 1943 following flight operations. She then sailed to the Marshall Islands with TG 51.2 and launched strikes 29 January 1944 against Taroa Field on Maloelap Atoll. The next day the task group centered its operations around Kwajalein, Wotje, and Maloelap Atolls, with Nassau conducting both anti-submarine and combat air patrols.
Nassau returned to Pearl Harbor 3 March 1944, disembarked VC-66, and took on aircraft, cargo, and passengers for ferry to the Marshall Islands. Throughout March, ferry missions were performed between Kwajalein, Majuro, and Pearl Harbor. After repairs and alterations at Mare Island Navy Yard, the carrier sailed with 51 aircraft for Finschhafen, New Guinea 5 May. The next four months she performed ferry missions from San Diego to Pearl Harbor, the Admiralties and the New Hebrides Islands.
Upon arrival at Seeadler Harbor on 1 September 1944, Nassau reported to Commander TG 30.8. Thus began her tour of duty with Admiral William F. Halsey's Third Fleet. Nassau's mission was to operate out of the Admiralties with other escort carriers to provide replacement aircraft and pilots for the attack carriers of TF 38. Steaming in company with the oiler groups, which refueled the ships of the Task Force at sea, Nassau made three cruises into the western Pacific. She returned to the Admiralties with disabled aircraft which were destined for shipment to Pearl Harbor or the United States for reconditioning.
The first of these replacement trips was in support of the strikes against Palau; the second in support of operations against the southern and central Philippines. Then TF 38 shifted to more northerly targets in the Philippines and Formosa. Nassau reached Manus 20 October 1944. After off-loading old aircraft and taking on new ones, she departed on her last replacement trip. Steaming to Ulithi Atoll in the Caroline Islands, she joined up with TG 38.1 and TG 38.3 on 28 October and transferred 70 aircraft and 43 pilots to the attack carriers.
Task Unit 12.6.1, composed of Nassau, Tennessee, and four other ships steamed for Pearl Harbor on 5 November 1944, arriving the 16th. Two days later, Nassau was dispatched to San Diego. Among her passengers were 382 survivors of the small carrier Princeton (CVL-23), which had been scuttled after having suffered massive damage in the Battle for Leyte Gulf on 24 October 1944. Another ferry mission to Pearl Harbor followed in mid-November, with three more runs to Guam in December, January, and February. Nassau returned to Alameda, California, 23 March 1945 and through the remainder of the war performed transport and ferry missions between Alameda, Pearl Harbor, Guam, Manus, Samar, and Saipan.
Nassau departed Alameda on 13 May 1946 for Tacoma, Washington. On 28 October, she decommissioned and entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet. Designated for modification for aircraft transportation purposes, her classification was changed to CVHE-16 on 12 June 1955. Shortly thereafter she transferred to the Bremerton Reserve Group, and was stricken from the Navy Register on 1 March 1959. In June 1961 she was towed to Japan for scrapping.
Nassau received five battle stars for World War II service.